Innovation and Creativity in Digital Out of Home, Important Themes at DPAA Global Summit

By E.B. Moss,Podcaster Founder/Podcaster,


Ever since T-Mobile launched its “un”-campaign as the “uncarrier” back in 2004 – positioning itself as unlike other telecom providers, its digital out of home (DOOH) signage has frequently been executed in ways “un”seen before. As Chief Creative Officer Peter DeLuca explained to DPAA’s CEO, Barry Frey, the company has innovated around its creative — from giant takeovers to 3-D or “anamorphic” ads — as much as its unique and disruptive consumer offerings. DeLuca, along with a dozen other agency and brand executives, from EssenceMediacom and Crispin Porter Bogusky, to TUI, Lenovo, Snap, and others, all sat down with Frey during the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity earlier this summer,  to discuss their approach to maximizing digital out of home advertising.


The breadth of panelists reflected DPAA’s aim to educate around the equivalent breadth of digital out of home advantages. As Frey pointed out, using DOOH is the “best of television, with the frequency of other media. We’re on the path to purchase.” (Being on the path to purchase and the uptick of in-store retail media will be key themes at the DPAA’s Global Summit in New York on October 10. More information here.)


Surrounding Customers


To that point, DeLuca noted that, “When we started the “’Uncarrier’ it was about surrounding our customers. So anywhere they went, we always wanted to have T-Mobile. On mobile, on TV, on radio, and, of course, out of home.”


That surround philosophy continues. Perhaps on steroids. Some great examples include T-Mobile’s deep alignment with sports and reaching fans on-site at arenas.


When T-Mobile signed with the Mariners, they reinvested in a lighting package for the entire (now named) T-Mobile Park. So, as DeLuca described, “it becomes a visual beacon for our brand. If you fly over Seattle and there’s a game, you can’t miss it.” Additional eye-catching sports and entertainment alignments include their eponymic T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas with an associated huge OOH board, and major alignment with F1 at racing sites. Even digital signage at their Times Square retail store often features a broadcast of the Home Run Derby, which T-Mobile also sponsors and turns into yet another stadium decked out in magenta. “We’re always thinking differently,” DeLuca added.


Pushing Boundaries


Another Formula1 partner thinking differently is Lenovo. More 3D animation will race across Piccadilly Circus screens, designed to generate more excitement and engagement for the brand’s F1 alignment and the brand’s ThinkPads and phones. And this fall, look for news about even greater passerby immersion in the form of virtual races on digital out of home screens in Japan!  Newsworthy as they anticipate this approach to be, the DOOH creative front is “like a battlefield out there,” says Alberto Spinelli, Lenovo’s President, Global Advertising, about the evolving opportunities and competition for attention. But Lenovo will stay in it to win with ever more creative ad executions because “innovation is part of the brand, and part of that is displaying innovation.”


One flag on the play: “Just because you CAN, do you have the bandwidth within your creative team to implement the vision and multiple versions,” now possible with digital out of home, asks Toby Horry, global brand director for travel services brand TUI. While the TUI team has been embracing 3D DOOH in Manchester airports, they have tested regionally along the way, ensuring that versions promoting destinations from Bristol to Mexico are resonating and well-targeted. Travel advertising “will only keep getting bigger” as we have emerged out of our homes, so sustainable – and effective — effort is key, pointed out Horry.


When the world is your canvas.

When your playing field is the world, it helps to have a product that empowers your audience to opt in to generate your test cases of sorts. Some 250 million people use the Snapchat camera/ social media app. And, with 90% of those using the app up to 40 times per day that adds up to 6 billion Snaps a day, according to Tom Bates, head of creative strategy at parent company Snap. Like Lenovo, its users expect innovation, which Snap delivers in spades via its bleeding edge augmented reality layers. And that pairs beautifully with DOOH to bring brands to life.


Augmenting Reality


AR and OOH together enables utility: shopping or ecommerce, a map; a movie trailer; even virtual try-ons of clothing. That brings measurability and delivers on Snap’s mission to enhance the users’ worlds, and creates magic for brands, Bates said. Outdoor, he added, “is a great way to create experience extensions to any campaign.”


Maggie Malek, President of Snap’s agency, Crispin Porter Bogusky, added, “This is an audience that also expects authenticity. …It’s not about likes, or comments; just sharing real moments,” making a great environment for a brand. Adding DOOH can deliver that Snap sweet spot of younger 13-24 year olds, overcoming some buyers perceptions of OOH being linear or “old school.” Citing a Harris Poll study, the two also pointed out that 53% of Snap users recall seeing and interacting with out of home. So, strategically, leveraging interactive out of home should be a decision brands make in, well, a snap!


Malek, bullish on billboards overall, believes that breakthrough creative that converts “is so awesome that we want to push brands to think about DOOH sooner in the journey.” And since we all now “understand how to use a QR code,” she said, “people know to interact with a board. It’s connecting the real world. We can do really cool stuff together.”


But, she added, strategy has to lead the way: “We’re audience first. We start with the consumer journey…versus, ‘Hey here’s a new media platform.’ At CPB, we have a holistic plan and comms planning, and a team that repurposes that creative – because what works on a billboard is not same as on gym TVs…. For us going back to ‘what do we want humans to do?’ and then how do we drive that behavior cross channel…”


Reaching Communities Creatively


Innovation is also familiar territory to Horry and EssenceMediaCom CEO, EMEA Tim Irwin. The two overlapped when Horry was Marketing Director at food giant TESCO, which featured customized content aimed at the Muslim community for the first time, and during Ramadan featured digital boards of empty dinner plates during daytime hours.  Working with creative shop BBH London, EssenceMediacom interfaced with, used TGI data to identify locations with high Muslim populations and the creative was timed to morph to full plates at sunset in each area. The media shop has also targeted eyes to bat at some 280 3-D digital boards in the UK for Maybelline mascara.


However, Irwin noted that as creative – and awareness driving — as some of these out of home examples are, getting buy-in from  “the finance guys” still requires them understanding that adding more dollars to just the bottom of the funnel will not ‘move the needle’ without equal attention paid to brand marketing.” But to that point, Frey noted, the DOOH industry is now showing it can be a “full funnel medium” with trackable actions.


Used creatively, DOOH promotes standout awareness. But innovation requires insight and vision. Audiences, outcomes, and resources all matter.